‘Fast’ artist fondles food, shocks viewers

By Justin David Tate

A camera is focused on a lone woman cowering in a corner. Her face is hidden behind her black shades, black afro wig and pouting red lips, giving her an aura of unpredictability.
As a deep, slow voice sings an eerie rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Man In the Mirror” that echoes  throughout the H100 Art Gallery, the performer slithers toward a hot dog. She then stared at, kissed and licked the hot dog before performing the moonwalk with her glitter glove-adorned hand. Eventually, she devoured the hot dog in a face-first frenzy of ketchup and mustard.
Dressed in a red jacket reminiscent of a Thriller-era Michael Jackson, Danielle Georgiou simultaneously amazed, baffled, disturbed and entertained students and faculty over the course of a 90-minute performance art piece entitled “D in my T, Redux.” It was performed on Nov. 9 as part of the “Fast” art exhibit.
The idea for the exhibit came from the Common Book, “Fast Food Nation,” which is about consumption. After Jackson’s death, Georgiou read numerous tabloid reports about his sexual orientation. From then on, she decided to take the idea of consumption and turn it into something more than just food.
“I wanted to make this a commentary on what Americans put into the forefront,” Georgiou said. “Here’s this man who we all consider the King of Pop. The reason we have pop music, the reason we dance the way we do and the reason music videos are made the way they are is because of Michael Jackson. But all we seem to focus on is this one issue about him.”
Iris Bechtol, the college’s art gallery director, offered Georgiou a space in the gallery because she felt her work fit with the exhibit’s theme of speed as it relates to life. She said the Jackson-themed performance was more of a “hyper-Michael” than a biographical one.
“I don’t think it’s meant to be an exact portrayal of him,” Bechtol said. “I think it’s a way of creating this celebrity kind of persona, then coupling that with this desire for food, desire for sex, desire for the celebrity.”
Fellow “Fast” artist Jesse Morgan Barnett was amazed at the display.
“I was trying to make all this meaningful, and then I finally found out this isn’t meant to be some deep thing I’m not grasping,” Barnett said. “It’s supposed to be funny, strange, awkward, make me uncomfortable.”
Like Georgiou, Barnett and another artist, Christine Bisetto, were also invited to create works for the exhibit.
Barnett’s work, “Figure/Distance,” is a collection of three computer screenshots of live webcasts or traffic cameras from three different parts of the world: a beach on Mexico, a location in Antarctica and a traffic intersection in Japan.
“Essentially, [photography is] made up of a photographical environment, a photographer, either a camera or recording apparatus, and the photograph,” Barnett said. “I was interested in the Internet and how it compressed all of those things into a singular apparatus and experience, via personal computer monitor, screenshot capturing and webcams.”
Beth Cunningham, a self-proclaimed meditation teacher, found that she was able to relate to the man walking to work at the Japanese traffic light in Barnett’s third screenshot.
“It gave me a sense of omniscience, like I was seeing a private moment, a little bit like, ‘how many moments like that have I had that ended up on a webcam?’” Cunningham said.
Bisetto’s piece, “My Worth is Your Worth,” consisted of printed photographs of water with rows of postal labels attached to each photograph. Visitors are encouraged to take a postal label. As each postal label is lifted, the adhesive takes a bit of the photograph with it. By the time the exhibit concludes, the work will have disappeared.
“The idea behind the audience participating was that water doesn’t really belong to anyone, [nor] do the images,” Bisetto said. “Even though the images were taken by me, they can be for everyone.”
The “Fast” exhibit was only the beginning of a trilogy of art exhibits inspired by “Fast Food Nation.”
The next show, titled “Food,” will open Jan. 22-Feb. 15, and the last one, “Nation,” will be open from March 4-April 5.